Publication Date: May 28, 2013
The author, Michael Hurley, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
The Prodigal is an exceptionally well-written book. Technically there is nothing to fault in Hurley’s construction. This is an author who reads as though he is well-acquainted with writing and the rules thereof. The style of the prose is perhaps too stiff and formal for the subject matter but complaining about the style of the language would perhaps be nitpicking. There’s a sense of phrasing that leads readers to think of ancient classics and many points in the novel that call those classics to mind. In fact, Hurley tackles a wealth of concepts in this 359-page novel with varying degrees of success. The Prodigal is Hurley’s first novel and there’s a strong sense of an author going for broke in order to write a tale the runs the gamut. Aiden is a modern-day Odysseys.
day level. Hurley, who holds a law degree, made his main character a lawyer. The first portion of the book deals with Aiden’s fall and his life as a lawyer reads as very credible. Ocracoke Island is stuck in time. The inhabitants of the Island speak as they did 200 years before. In the style of classic literature, Aiden falls as far as he can fall and lands on the island where he starts to build real connections with kindred spirits. A mixed bag of characters, each with their own problems, and each coming together for a common goal. The connection between Aiden and the other characters impress the reader as authentically constructed over the course of the story and the discovery of the schooner. Hurley clearly gave thought not only to what those characters represent on the surface but in a deeper sense in a narrative where they will become, in a sense, a unit.
Hurley cannot be faulted for the development of setting. After reading this novel I searched Okracoke Island in Google Maps and the island looks quite like it’s described in the text. Hurley is clearly writing what he knows and that characterization is perhaps the most successful aspect of this novel. As well as the characters are written and as well as they play their roles, the island stands as a character of its own and also plays an integral part in a tale which may end in redemption for some. As a natural result of the setting, there’s a deep connection to the sea and how fickle she can be and how easily she can destroy people that play well into the symbolism of the story.
And therein lies my hesitance with The Prodigal. The entire novel is a religious allegory and, in the style of religious allegories, is quite heavy-handed at times. There are times when it seems Hurley is saying to the reader, “I will hit you with this symbolic hammer to make sure you’ve gotten what I tried to do here.” The schooner may or may not contain a religious artifact. The schooner itself has a religious representation. The characters, as well as they are written, fill a token void and are symbolic. Readers of religious fiction may see the symbolism as masterful but I found it to be contrived and overworked.
Overall The Prodigal is a very good story that a lot of readers will like. I enjoyed the novel if not so much the delivery of the message. If you like allegorical fiction, pick this one up.
Michael Hurley lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Prodigal is his third novel. Michael Hurley’s first book “Letters from the Woods” was selected as a finalist in the Nature category for ForeWord magazine’s Book of the Year award. In 2013 Hachette Book Group published his memoir “Once Upon A Gypsy Moon.”
Read an excerpt and buy The Prodigal by Michael Hurley on